Laneya Wiles is a true triple-threat. No only does she possess amazing acting prowess, but she’s also a model and stand-up comic as well; performing her act in such places as the famous Gotham, New York and Greenwich Village Comedy Clubs.
Wiles’ breakout performance will no doubt be in the upcoming Ron Krauss directed film “Gimme Shelter.” Based on a true story, “Gimme Shelter” stars Vanessa Hudgens as Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a pregnant 16-year-old struggling for survival and redemption through the harsh realities of life on the streets. Apple’s journey plummets her into a perilous struggle, until she finds salvation at a suburban shelter for homeless teens. Wiles plays the role of Jasmine Colon, one of Apple’s friends and constant supporter in the shelter. Sadly, Jasmine’s own story is one that’s all too similar, with a background of rape and teen pregnancy.
Gimme Shelter also stars James Earl Jones, Rosario Dawson, and Brendan Fraiser.
I spoke with Wiles about her work on the film as well as her stand-up comedy and how she got her start.
What attracted you most to “Gimme Shelter”?
It was a little bit of a mystery at first, but I did a little more research once I got the script and really loved the message and what it was about.
How would you describe the story?
It’s based on a true story, actually a collection of two young girl’s stories. One had a mother who was on drugs and wound up pregnant from her boyfriend. She goes on a journey to find her father, but since it wasn’t acceptable for her to be pregnant in that household, she’s forced to be out on the street. Eventually, she finds all of the girls in the shelter and they become just like her family.
Tell me a little about your character.
I play Jasmine Colon, a teenage runaway who was raped and is pregnant. It’s a pretty heavy role.
How did you prepare to take on such a role?
The call back for the role took place at the actual shelter in New Jersey, so I got to meet members of the cast as well as a few of the people who actually lived in the shelter. A lot of the “prep” work happened naturally while we were there. We got to see first hand what it was really like. It was a reality we faced by being there with them and it helped to give it a more well-rounded view.
What was it like working with such a great ensemble?
It was amazing and humbling. Everyone was just so genuine and down to Earth. Vanessa and I would sometimes just sit down in our dressing room and talk about how production was going. I definitely enjoyed it.
What would you say was the hardest part of the filming process?
I think the most intense scene for everyone was when we were all in the office and were reading the files about what happened in our lives and the things our characters had gone through on paper. We all shared this moment together and it was very tense.
In addition to your film work, you’ve also done stand-up comedy. What are some of the differences between the two?
In stand-up comedy, you’re able to get automatic response and feedback because it’s highly interactive. You also feel the vibe of the room and get to work off of that. I like the fact that there’s a spontaneous element to it. Doing comedy also allows me to increase my focus, which complements my acting.
When did you get started in acting?
I started when I was four, making Playbills and putting on shows for my family. I loved performing right from the start and knew early on that it was something that I wanted to do with my life. One of my teachers in kindergarten realized this as well. She knew a manager and told my Mom that she should look into it. That was how I started.
Any advice you could give to up and coming actors?
You have to have undying determination and perseverance to survive in this business and not expect things to just happen overnight. Everything is a process, but if you believe in yourself and love what you do, then you’ll be willing to hang in there and not give up the good fight!